I read Jen Campbell’s Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops a couple weeks ago because I’d completed Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller and wasn’t ready to stop reading about hilarious experiences in bookshops.
This Sunday Times bestseller is a miscellany of hilarious and peculiar bookshop moments: ‘Can books conduct electricity?’
‘My children are just climbing your bookshelves: that’s ok… isn’t it?’
A John Cleese Twitter question [‘What is your pet peeve?’], first sparked the ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ blog, which grew over three years into one bookseller’s collection of ridiculous conversations on the shop floor.
From ‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’ to the hunt for a paperback which could forecast the next year’s weather; and from ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses, please read me the first chapter’ to ‘Excuse me… is this book edible?: here is a book for heroic booksellers and booklovers everywhere.
This full-length collection illustrated by the Brothers McLeod also includes top ‘Weird Things’ from bookshops around the world. (Goodreads)
I’m pretty sure that I learned about this book through booktube. I’m subscribed to the Campbell’s YouTube channel, where she chats about books, reading, and other bookish things as well as give life updates. I enjoy her content, particularly her book recommendation videos — I learned about The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (haven’t yet read it) from her — and history of fairytales videos, where she looks at a particular fairytale (like Cinderella) and discusses how the story has been told in different parts of the world and in different cultures and how the story has changed over time. I highly recommend that you check out her videos.
Many booktubers have mentioned Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops on their channels, proclaiming how much they enjoyed it, so, back when I bought nearly every book I heard about on booktube, I bought a copy, and it has been sitting on my shelves since then. If not for Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller, it would still be sitting there unread. But I really enjoyed the dry humor in Bythell’s book, and I wasn’t ready for that entertainment to end, so I read Campbell’s book hoping for those qualities to continue in it.
Well, it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, but I thought that might have been because I’ve never worked in a bookshop (though I sorely want to) and probably couldn’t fully relate. (I have worked in retail before, though, so I could relate on that end.) Some parts made me chuckle and others made me wonder if people really said and did some of the things (like thinking that they can use the bookstore as a library or returning a book that fell in the bathtub or allowing their kid to run wild in the store and even damage merchandise). I found some of them hard to believe and I doubt I could have maintained a welcoming, patient demeanor in some of the circumstances. For some reason, I find it easier to accept that people would do some of these things in a department or clothing store or supermarket, but in my mind, bookshops have prestige, so people should behave better in them. This book proved that way of thinking wrong. I guess it’s only few of us who see bookshops as a reverent space.
The scenarios, statements, requests, and questions accumulated in the book are from two particular bookshops in the U.K. — the Edinburgh Bookshop and Ripping Yarns; but there’s a third section that accumulates content from booksellers around the world. Though it wasn’t as funny as I expected, I enjoyed reading Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops. It is short and is a one-sitting read, but I took about three days to complete it because of responsibilities that kept interrupting me.
The text is accompanied by illustrations that highlight certain scenarios. They are simple cartoon illustrations that add a nice touch to the book, making it lighter and more delightful.
It’s okay. It has some funny moments and some odd ones (because of the customers’ antics).
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Unless you enjoy reading about bookstores and bookish experiences, in which case Buy.